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Eagan pummels East Ridge in straight sets to claim tournament berth

By Trevor Squire, SportsEngine, 11/04/17, 10:00AM CDT


The Wildcats sprinted through the section playoffs without losing a single set.

Eagan clinched its fifth consecutive section title following a straight set victory over East Ridge in the Class 3A, Section 3 final Saturday night. Photo by Trevor Squire, SportsEngine

Eagan, riding an 18-game winning streak entering Saturday’s Class 3A, Section 3 final against East Ridge, was neck-and-neck with the Raptors through the first set.

After a three-point win in the opening frame, the Wildcats ran away with their fifth consecutive section title in a 25-22, 25-14, 25-13 straight set decision at Prior Lake High School. Eagan (28-1, 9-1) advances for a chance to three-peat as big school state champion following the win.

The Wildcats, who have won 50 sets in a row and are the No. 1 team in the Class 3A coaches' poll, suffered their last blemish on Sept. 14 in a five-set win against Rosemount. Coach Kathy Gillen-Melville made adjustments midway through the season. Even after notching over 600 wins in her career, Gillen-Melville was taken by surprise how her team has responded.

“I’ve asked some girls to come out of their comfort zone, and they have responded above and beyond what I thought they could do,” Gillen-Melville said. “It’s all on them they’ve worked so hard to make things happen.”

Senior McKenna Melville led Eagan with 12 kills to help her team hoist the championship plaque for a fourth time in her career. She credited East Ridge (19-11, 8-0), which made its first section final appearance since 2010, the year the Woodbury school opened.

“They made it a really exciting match, they’re a great team putting up that kind of performance against us,” she said.

Coach Steve Anderson said the excitement in making a postseason push for the state tournament could be a building block for the No. 9-3A Raptors.

“I felt the girls played well but Eagan was more consistent than us from start to finish,” he said. “There wasn’t a girl on this floor who has played in a section final before. It was new for all of us and we learned a lot for it with a lot of younger girls coming back.”

Adding another section title to their resume, the Wildcats set their sights on the Class 3A tournament at Xcel Energy Center.

“To be there again is amazing,” she said. “We had a little lull in the beginning but we’ve come back from there and we’re flowing well. I’ve wanted this for my whole life.”

East Ridge's Janie Grindland swings a hit into the Wildcats' zone at Prior Lake High School Saturday night. Photo by Trevor Squire, SportsEngine

First Report

Eagan claimed a 25-22, 25-14, 25-13 straight set victory over East Ridge in the Class 3A, Section 3 title game at Prior Lake High School Saturday night. The top-seeded Wildcats (28-1) advance to their fifth straight state tournament following the win.

McKenna Melville led Eagan, which is ranked No. 1 in the Class 3A coaches' poll, with 12 kills. Olivia Masso posted a team-high 19 assists.

Janie Grindland’s nine kills carried the No. 9-3A Raptors (19-10).

Eagan goes into the state tournament with momentum. The Wildcats cruised through the section playoffs without surrendering a set, defeating Eastview (3-0 on Nov. 1) and St. Paul Highland Park (3-0 on Oct. 26) before toppling the Raptors.

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